Saturday, September 24, 2011

Peerkankai Masiyal (Chinese Okra and Dal Stew)


Peerkankai Masiyal Ingredients

Peerkankai Masiyal is a simple traditional South Indian stew that is very nutritious as well as utterly delightful. Peerkankai, whether ridged or smooth (Luffa acutangula or aegyptiaca/cylindrica), are also known as Tori or Torai, Chinese Okra, sponge Squash, etc. Both types of peerkankai - ridged and smooth skinned - are interchangeable and either can be used in this or other recipes. While young and tender, the squashes are mild and delicious as vegetables and are used in Asian cuisines; but if left to mature, they become fibrous loofah sponges perfect for scrubbing away dry skin and dead cells from our bodies!

Serves 4 - 6

Ingredients:

2 medium young Loofah Gourds (Peerkankai)
1 green chile ( Serrano or Jalapeño), cored and minced
1 cup Toor Dal
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Lime/Lemon

Tadka/Thalippu:
2 tsp Ghee/Oil
1-2 Dry Hot Red Chile
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves

Method:

Sort, wash, and cook the dal in fresh water to cover until soft and creamy.

Lightly peel the Peerkankai and slice or dice.

Add to the dal along with the chile, turmeric, and salt; cook until the veggies are soft. Mash coarsely with the back of a spoon if desired.

Add hot water if needed for desired consistency; we usually keep it medium thick and not too thin.

Prepare thalippu: Heat the ghee/oil and add the chiles and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds finish popping, add the asafetida.

Turn off the heat and add the curry leaves very carefully - they are explosive when they meet the hot oil - cover with a lid quickly if you like and let sizzle a few seconds or until the sizzling subsides.

Pour the aromatic thalippu into the dal mixture and mix well.

Squeeze the lime or lemon and add the juice to the masiyal according to your taste; start with the half a lime/lemon and add more as you wish.  Add the lime/lemon just before serving. Stir well.

Serve hot with rice/roti. Enjoy!!

Mulagai Pachadi (Sweet & Sour Chile Relish)

A beloved South Indian delicacy, Mulagai Pachadi is a wonderful side to almost any meal! Mulagai Pachadi is a tongue tingling side-dish to accompany mild curries such as poricha kuzhambu, molakootal, simple dal, etc. Any kind of fresh chiles can be used to prepare this pachadi; I particularly like the mild long banana or regular yellow chiles or a mix of mild and hot if you prefer. Jaggery or Molasses (neer vellam) gives it a delicious flavor but do not use black-strap kind.

Ingredients:

5 - 6 Banana or Yellow Chiles
1" ball dried Tamarind or 2 tsp Tamarind concentrate
1/4 tsp Turmeric
2-3 Tbsp Jaggery, Molasses, or brown sugar
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds (Methi)
1/2 tsp uncooked rice
1 Tbsp white/tan Sesame seeds
2 tsp Indian Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 stem Curry Leaves, sliced

Method:

If using dried tamarind, soak it in a little warm water to cover for a few minutes to soften. Knead with fingers and strain out the juice in a bowl. Add another 1/4 cup of water and repeat kneading and extracting the juice a couple of more times. You should have about a cup or so of the tamarind juice; discard the solids.

Toast the rice and fenugreek seeds in a small pan without any oil until fragrant over low heat; stir in the sesame and roast until golden. Cool and grind into a powder with the salt using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder; the salt helps to grind finely.

Cut the chiles lengthwise, remove stems, ribs and core of seeds; slice crosswise into 1/4" thick slices.

Heat the oil and add mustard seeds; when they finish popping, add the curry leaves carefully and let them sizzle a little for a few seconds.

Stir in the sliced chiles and cook stirring until softened.

Add the tamarind juice and turmeric (if using tamarind concentrate, add a cup of water).

Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid is reduced a little.

Add the jaggery/molasses/brown sugar and let simmer for about 5 more minutes.

Stir in the ground sesame mixture and simmer again for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot, warm or cold. Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cucumber Pickles Indian Style (Spicy Vegetable Relish)

Indian style Cucumber pickles is another way to enjoy the bounty of cucumbers. I needed to make a big batch of pickles quickly to serve with yogurt rice for a big group. Although unripe mangoes would be the ideal ingredient, all I had in the fridge were a big bag of cucumbers and carrots! Since there was no time to run out to the store, I made the pickles using the cukes and the carrots. The luscious pickle turned out to be a great hit - juicy, cool cucumbers and crunchy carrots, what's not to love? They have a faint aroma reminiscent of mangoes - even looks like it!

Note: You may use hothouse cucumbers or other kinds instead of the Persian. If the cukes are mature, use a teaspoon to remove and discard the core and seeds. Peel the cucumbers only if their skins are waxed; otherwise peeling is not necessary. The sesame oil used here is Indian type; if it is not available, use your favorite vegetable oil.

Citric acid is a white crystalline solid that looks like table salt and is available in Indian markets; it adds a nice tart taste to the pickles. Citric acid is naturally present in fruits and veggies; particularly more abundant in citrus fruits. It is also called sour or lemon salt and often added to commercially prepared foods and beverages.
Indian Cucumber-Carrot Pickles
Ingredients:

3 Persian type cucumbers, diced
1 medium Carrot, diced
1 Tbsp ground Dry Red Chiles (cayenne) - more or less according to how spicy you would like
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Citric Acid

Masala (Spice Mix):
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds (optional)

Tadka/Thalippu:
1 Tbsp Sesame oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Asafoetida

Method:

Combine the veggies and citric acid in a stainless steel, enamel or glass bowl and mix well.

Grind the masala ingredients into a powder using a spice grinder.

Heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds when hot. When the mustard seeds pop, remove from heat, add asafetida and then the ground masala, cayenne and turmeric. Swirl or mix with a spoon and pour over the veggies.

Mix all the pickle ingredients thoroughly and spoon into sterile glass jars; push the veggies down to remove any air pockets and cover with lids.

The pickles are ready to eat right away; but if you use fenugreek, it is good to give a couple of days for flavors to meld and develop as well as give a chance for fenugreek to soften.

I like to leave it on the counter top for about 2 or 3 days to cure as this gives the veggies a chance to develop lactic fermentation. If you go this route, make sure the veggies are covered with a thin layer of their liquid (if needed, you can add 1 or 2 tbsp of brine to top it off; make brine by dissolving 1 tsp salt with 1/3 cup of filtered or boiled and cooled water at room temperature) and shake them and let the carbon dioxide build up out once a day by slightly opening the jar.

Store in the fridge and use as desired; the pickles will last a couple of weeks at least if it doesn't get gobbled up!

Delicious served with rotis, dosas, idlis, upma, rice dishes, etc. Try this with Non-Dairy Yogurt Rice! Enjoy!!